Holding the March Annual Meeting 2021 & COVID-19
Townships will face an unusual circumstance in March 2021, when they hold the Township Annual Meeting. Towns were able to hold the Annual Meeting in 2020 just as they always had because the COVID-19 pandemic had not yet taken hold in Minnesota. This year, though, towns may need to move the Annual Meeting to a remote means. MAT recommends town boards take the steps below in preparation for the 2021 Annual Meeting:
- Use the Time Available: Use the time available to you before deciding on a method of meeting. Towns must provide at least 10 days’ published notice of the date, time, and location of the Annual Meeting. See Stat. § 365.51, subd. 2. The notice must be published no later than Sunday, February 28, 2021, so town boards should plan to make their final decision before that date. Conditions may change significantly between now and March, so no one can say with certainty how we will be meeting.
- Prepare Now! Prepare for the possibility of a Remote Meeting NOW! If your Board is unfamiliar with teleconference and video-conference services, it must learn how they can be used now. This will allow those services to be deployed if necessary. MAT has resources in the Information Library about how to start using remote communication services. Towns may also use a third-party service to host their meeting. Also, prepare to deliver the Board of Audit Report and any other report from the Board to those on the call.
- If the Meeting is In-Person: If the Board chooses to hold the meeting in person, then the Board should place for social distancing, requiring all those attending wear a mask or face shield, and provide a remote means of listening and/or participating in the Annual Meeting. The only legal exemption to the mask requirement is for those who cannot medically tolerate wearing a mask or shield.
- If the Meeting is Remote: If the Board chooses to hold the meeting by remote means (telephone or video-conference methods), then the Board should: (1) plan for the changes a telephone or video meeting requires; and (2) pass a resolution designating the Annual Meeting will be held by remote means. The Board should hold the remote meeting at the same time as directed by the voters in the prior Annual Meeting, or by statute. Voting will likely be difficult in a video or telephone meeting. The Board may try to plan methods for voting, or it may ask the voters to continue the Annual Meeting to a later date for all voting matters. A continued meeting is one that is held in more than one session, allowing the group to leave and return later. An Annual Meeting can be continued to later date if the voters pass a motion to continue the meeting to a specific date, time, and location for the reconvening. If voters continue their meeting it is important they do not adjourn the meeting. The advantage of a continued meeting is that is may allow voters to meet in-person later in the year when circumstances of the pandemic be different.
- Be Patient: Townships must convene their Annual Meeting on the second Tuesday of March, except for weather-related circumstances. However, no statute requires the voters to take any action on that day, so towns should not feel pressured to complete their business on that day.